Dion Green is a soft-spoken 37-year-old with short dreadlocks and a muscular build. He works at a men’s homeless shelter helping the less fortunate.
In recent months, though, Green has been thrust onto the other side of crisis-solving. He has now found himself the one who is trying to traverse misery.
His father, Derrick Fudge, 57, of Springfield, Ohio, was among the nine people shot and killed in front of a bar in downtown Dayton. At the time of the shooting spree, Fudge was standing in front of Green. When Green realized his dad had been shot, he held his dad and could think of only one thing to say.
“I just wanted to tell him I loved him. A thousand times over and over until he stopped hearing it,” Green said.
Fudge was a handyman contractor and Salvation Army bell ringer. Because of that, Green says, everybody in the Dayton area knew his dad.
“All my friends, family, would say, ‘I see your dad at Salvation Army, at Kroger’s.’ Like, ‘I see your dad ringing a bell,’ ” Green recalled from his living room in Dayton. “He’s going to be missed because a lot of people aren’t going to see his face this year.”
It’s the second life-altering event for Green in the past three months. In late May, tornadoes that swept across Ohio decimated his roof, windows, yard and fence. He has filed a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but it was denied.
“I’m still fighting that battle uphill, then I get knocked back down again,” Green said.
Yet the property damage is secondary in his mind right now.
“This is something that I can rebuild from,” he said. “The house can be rebuilt. I can’t rebuild a father.”
For 16 years, Green has been in a relationship with Donita Cosey. They’re now engaged. They have a 10-year-old daughter, Niara.
For Cosey, processing what happened means remembering the easygoing fun that preceded the nightmare last weekend.
“Just the moments in the bar. The dancing, the having a good time, the protecting me,” Cosey said.
Protecting her, Cosey said, because she thinks there was a divine reason why her father-in-law stood firm in front of her and Green. Shots were ringing out and Fudge was undeterred.
“God thought maybe it would be better to take Derrick’s life, and leave our daughter with both parents, because it could’ve turned out that she could be without both parents and a grandfather,” Cosey said.
Green is focusing on what an outstanding dad and later friend Fudge was. Growing up, Green says his dad had a lot of strict rules and used to come down hard to keep him in line, but their bond matured with time.
“As he got older, as I got older, he became one of my best friends, like we just hung out,” Green said.
Fudge’s funeral is Saturday. As Green raises money to pay for his father’s burial and works on healing, he says the Oregon District, the popular nightlife corridor and site of the attack, is a place he will avoid.
“Never going back there. I just don’t want to be on the street that took my father,” he said.
When Green got in his SUV following his dad’s killing, he discovered a metal silver lighter belonging to his dad. In the days after the shooting, he kept it with him and clasped it — a therapeutic memento of Fudge.
He decided to have it engraved with his dad’s name and two other words: “Never forgotten.”